Tolstoy's description of Christianity

I came across this excerpt from Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You. Obviously, these sentiments are averse to any liturgical or sacramental form of Christian practice. Does anyone have additional insights into Tolstoy’s mentality or other things from him you’ve read on the matter.

Here is the excerpt:*But Christ could not have founded the Church, that is, what we now understand by that word. For nothing like the idea of the Church as we know it now, with its sacraments, miracles, and above all its claim to infallibility, is to be found either in Christ’s words or in the ideas of the men of that time. The fact that men called what was formed afterward by the same word as Christ used for something totally different, does not give them the right to assert that Christ founded the one, true Church. Besides, if Christ had really founded such an institution as the Church for the foundation of all his teaching and the whole faith, he would certainly have described this institution clearly and definitely, and would have given the only true Church, besides tales of miracles, which are used to support every kind of superstition, some tokens so unmistakable that no doubt of its genuineness could ever have arisen. But nothing of the sort was done by him. And there have been and still are different institutions, each calling itself the true Church……

It is terrible to think what the churches do to men. But if one imagines oneself in the position of the men who constitute the Church, we see they could not act differently. The churches are placed in a dilemma: the Sermon on the Mount or the Nicene Creed–the one excludes the other. If a man sincerely believes in the Sermon on the Mount, the Nicene Creed must inevitably lose all meaning and significance for him, and the Church and its representatives together with it. If a man believes in the Nicene Creed, that is, in the Church, that is, in those who call themselves its representatives, the Sermon on the Mount becomes superfluous for him. And therefore the churches cannot but make every possible effort to obscure the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, and to attract men to themselves. It is only due to the intense zeal of the churches in this direction that the influence of the churches has lasted hitherto.

Let the Church stop its work of hypnotizing the masses, and deceiving children even for the briefest interval of time, and men would begin to understand Christ’s teaching. But this understanding will be the end of the churches and all their influence. And therefore the churches will not for an instant relax their zeal in the business of hypnotizing grown-up people and deceiving children. This, then, is the work of the churches: to instill a false interpretation of Christ’s teaching into men, and to prevent a true interpretation of it for the majority of so- called believers.*

Here’s an informative article you may enjoy:

“100 Years After Excommunication, Church Cannot Look Kindly Upon Tolstoy”

A hundred years after it excommunicated Leo Tolstoy, the Russian Orthodox Church has ignored a plea by his great-great-grandson, Vladimir Tolstoy, to reconsider the writings and reflections of the famous novelist.

christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/marchweb-only/3-5-44.0.html

I think the grandson is going a little far calling him the national genius and prophet. I personally prefer Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky. The grandson is not asking for forgiveness, I don’t understand what it is that he wants the patriarch to consider. You can imagine the negative impact of the Orthodox Church his writings had on the public. I wonder how it affected the course of history and finally the acceptance and arrival of communism at the rejection of the Orthodox Church. It was no little matter.

The more power and influence we have, the greater our responsibility

The man made a point by stating his beliefs, but didn’t give any evidence. He just simply stated how he feels so it’s hard to comment on it without any argument.

If someone said this to me casually I would simply ask them to explain why they feel this way; so based on the quote provided alone I have nothing to say. I don’t know where he’s getting this from.

I think Tolstoy was tremendously impacted by the witnessing of an execution in Paris. After which he wrote to a friend: “The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens … Henceforth, I shall never serve any government anywhere.” (Government is Violence: essays on anarchism and pacifism. Leo Tolstoy – 1990 – Phoenix Press). In this same trip he was greatly influenced by the French writers of time regarding social equality. This was the origin of his anarchist conviction which spilled over to his orthodox faith. I don’t know what type of execution he witnessed in Paris, perhaps a hanging, but then Tolstoy knew of the burning at the stake of the Inquisition and must have thought that was most horrible. So it became evident to him that the Church as an organized institution promoted violence and he may have thought that if the Church was indeed established by Jesus its members should not be corrupt or unholy. It is exactly this misunderstanding that has led a lot of Catholics to abandon the Church in our time in the light of the scandals.

I see that Tolstoy did a lot of cherry picking of the Bible, so much so, that given his intelligence I must wonder if he was not aware of what he was doing. :shrug: He did promote non-violent resistance but Jesus Himself had already done that. I agree with him about government though, I am a law abiding citizen and have respected the establishment only to find out that there is established corruption within the system.

Matthew 5-7

5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes

He said:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Versus

Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

I think Tolstoy was tremendously impacted by the witnessing of an execution in Paris. After which he wrote to a friend: “The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens … Henceforth, I shall never serve any government anywhere.” (Government is Violence: essays on anarchism and pacifism. Leo Tolstoy – 1990 – Phoenix Press). In this same trip he was greatly influenced by the French writers of time regarding social equality. This was the origin of his anarchist conviction which spilled over to his orthodox faith. I don’t know what type of execution he witnessed in Paris, perhaps a hanging

Death sentences in 1800s France were carried out by beheading with a guillotine.

ICXC NIKA

If I witnessed such a thing I could see it having an impact on me. It’s cruel and to have such barbaric cruelty institutionalized and as part of the thing in a society is, well I can see how it could inspire a man to become an anarchist. I find Russian writers interesting, :smiley: even when I disagree with them.

I didn’t know that Tolstoy did not accept that Jesus is the son of God. He thought that Jesus was a regular man but the most intelligent man. The Bible according to Tolstoy was basically the words of Jesus and the rest the Church invented to establish itself. Talk about cherry picking, eh? The idea it seems was to liberate humanity from the government and the Church officials and take ethics from Christianity and the revolution was to take place in the hearts of the people who would live in a christian paradise by practicing christian ethics. But, that’s not Christianity and humans need leaders. It looks like the Constitution would have been the Sermon on the Mount.

I liked reading this article. dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bright/tolstoy/chrisanar.htm

Given that you call the beheading “barbaric”, it is interesting to note here that the guillotine was actually designed by a doctor of the same name.
The reason that he created this machine was to make the - already standard - execution by beheading less barbaric. At the time, beheadings were done by axe and depending on the quality of the executioner it might take multiple blows to accomplish. The guillotine was seen as a much more humane system.

Peace
James

The term “cherry picking” has been used several times here and I think it is important that we resist doing the same.
By this I mean that, in so far as we judge the things that he and others might have written about the Church and governments, we consider all of the factors that might have gone into their thinking.
In the 1800’s we have the industrial revolution - we have the Church (Catholic and Protestant and Orthodox) intertwined in the politics of the nations. There was much misery, much greed and much corruption.
Was the Church truly being “all that it could be” at that time?
I can’t remember the quote - it might have been Ghandi - who said something to the effect that he really liked Christ but he didn’t see much Christianity among Christians.

It seems to me that people such as Tolstoy - writing in the Europe of the late 1800’s would have been seeing much misery among the populations and much corruption both in the State and in the Church(es). How could such people reconcile what they saw daily with what they saw Christ calling for from His followers.

Peace
James

If only today’s Christians were as pacifist and loving as Tolstoy and the first and second century Christians I would not wait to jump into fellowship with them.

Dorothy Day relied heavily on Tolstoy in her formation. If a woman on road to canonization was in part brought to the Church through Tolstoy, he can’t be that bad.

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